Communities as Laboratories for Social Change

by Raven MoonRaven

When people talk about the communes from the sixties and claim that they’re all long gone now, I point to Twin Oaks, founded in 1967, celebrating its fiftieth anniversary next year, with nearly a hundred members and going strong.  When I hear folks say that communism is an awful idea that always results in dictatorships that eventually fail (and point to the Soviet Union and Red China), I point to Twin Oaks, a voluntary, from the ground up, communist culture, that’s doing pretty well.  And one of my favorite quotes was a comment on the Yahoo parenting article about Twin Oaks was where the writer simply said, “That would never work.”  (Obviously he had not read the article very carefully.) Another commenter said, “Whenever you start out in a communistic or socialistic regime, there will be a leader and his entourage that will rise up out of it and they will live luxuriously off the backs of the working class person.”  Sorry.  Nearly fifty years on and that hasn’t happened.

Soc Chg--TO
Twin Oaks Gathering

Twin Oaks may be the longest running commune but it’s far from the only one going strong:  Sandhill (1974), East Wind (1974), and Acorn (1993) are other good examples, each one different and each one an example of a community that’s lasted.

My first question is, why have they lasted?  On my personal blog I wrote a piece on social change where I quoted Kat Kinkade, “How did Twin Oaks get so far from its origins?

“When I tried to start a Walden Two community, I didn’t expect it to turn away from the scientific and rational and embrace popular movements.  But we did not have a lot of choice in member selection.  Who was available to join the fledgling community of 1969-1972?  Hippies, that’s who.  I know one group that was very serious about Walden Two and tried to build a community without any hippies in it.  It failed for lack of people.”

This pragmatic approach says something about the longevity of Twin Oaks.

I see communities as laboratories for social change.  (See my first post on this blog.) What works? What doesn’t work?  We can see how communism doesn’t work in big top down situations like the Soviet Union, yet functions very well at Twin Oaks.  We can learn stuff from studying Sandhill, East Wind, and Acorn as well.  Many different styles of community, but all of them communal, income-sharing, and egalitarian.  Yeah, this stuff works.

There are also new communes trying to extend the model even further: the Baltimore Free Farm, Living Energy Farm, Oran Mór, Quercus, and the Stillwater Sanctuary/Possibility Alliance, not to mention the newly forming community in Washington, DC–all of which have been featured in this blog.  Some of these communities will last and some of them won’t but they will all teach us about what works and doesn’t work.

Soc Chg--DC
DC Commune being organized

If you agree that things need changing and we need to figure out the best ways to do it, this blog provides a perspective on what’s possible and how to do it.  We are always trying to find more communities to feature–both within the US and outside of it.  I was very pleased when David from las Indias contributed a post on a non-US view of diversity.

This is a worldwide endeavor.  At the very least, you can follow it here.  If this sounds exciting, you could contact any of these communes and visit or even join.  You could be part of the experiment.

Communities as Laboratories for Social Change

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